If there’s anything I particularly hate when it comes to SEO, it’s the meta keywords tag. I so wish it had never been invented. It’s practically useless, yet people still obsess over it. In this article, I’ll explain more about why you shouldn’t worry about it except perhaps for misspellings, as well as which search engines support it.
The meta keywords tag is one of several of meta tags that you can insert into your web pages to provide search engines with information about your pages that isn’t visible on the page itself. For example, my Meta Robots Tag 101: Blocking Spiders, Cached Pages & More article covers how you can use a different meta tag — the meta robots tag — to block pages from being indexed. Users don’t see this information (unless they look at your source code), but search engines do.
Meta Tags & Your Header
Meta tags go within the header area of your web pages. A typical head might look like this:
<title>Welcome To Shoe Central!</title>
<meta name=”description” content=”All the best prices on shoes!” />
<meta name=”robots” content=”noodp” />
<meta name=”keywords” content=”shoe, shoes, shoee, shos, footwear” />
The header is the section that begins <head> and ends </head>. Between those elements, in our example, you have these tags:
- Title: The text here becomes the title that is shown in search engine listings, in most cases.
- Description: The text here is text that search engines sometimes use as a description for your web page when listing it (a meta tag lesson for another time).
- Robots: This particular tag is configured to ensure that the page isn’t described using the a description that the Open Directory might have for it (Meta Robots Tag 101 explains this more).
- Keywords: This tag is the topic of this article, so read on!
History Of Meta Keywords
I’ve long written about search engines and meta tags, but I have never been able to pin down exactly who created the meta keywords tag. There’s a December 1995 internet draft memo that’s the earliest and most authoritative mention of the tag I know of. It says:
<META HTTP-EQUIV= “Keywords” CONTENT= “Italy Product, Italy Tourism”>
The spaces between a comma and a word or vice versa are ignored….
These ‘keywords’ were specifically conceived for exhaustively and completely catalogue the HTML document. This allows the software agents to index at best your own document. To do a preliminary indexing, it’s important to use at least the http-equiv meta-tag “keywords”.
Sounds good, right? Like this is designed for the search engines to use? The issue is that HTML specs like these (especially drafts) are not necessarily used by the search engines. They can use them, ignore them or build upon them as they see fit.
As it turns out, several of the major search engines got together in May 1996 to talk about meta data. That meeting gave birth to a common standard for the meta robots and the meta description tags. As for the meta keywords tag, it was discussed, but no specification emerged.
Despite no specification, both Infoseek (later Go.com, these days no longer crawling the web) and AltaVista (now owned and powered by Yahoo) offered support for the meta keywords tag in 1996. If you looked at their help files at the time, they encouraged site owners to use the tag. Inktomi (now owned by Yahoo) also provided support when it began operations later in 1996, and Lycos (no longer crawling the web) added support in 1997.
That year — 1997 — was the last year that the meta keywords tag enjoyed support among the majority of major crawlers out there (4 out of 7 – Excite, WebCrawler and Northern Light, also crawling the web that year, did not support it).
Support Dies Off
When new search engines emerged in 1998, such as Google and FAST, they didn’t support the tag. The reason was simple. By that time, search engines had learned that some webmasters would “stuff” the same word over and over into the meta keywords tag, as a way of trying to rank better. At the time, search engines didn’t rely so heavily on link analysis, so page stuffing like this was more effective. Alternatively, some site owners would insert words that they weren’t relevant for.
In July 2002, AltaVista dropped its support of the tag. That left Inktomi as the only major crawler still supporting it, causing me to somewhat famously in the SEO world to declare the tag dead, since it was no longer a major ranking factor for even Inktomi:
Traffick.com’s Andrew Goodman wrote recently in an essay about meta tags, “If somebody would just declare the end of the metatag era, full stop, it would make it easier on everyone.”
I’m happy to oblige, at least in the case of the meta keywords tag. Now supported by only one major crawler-based search engine — Inktomi — the value of adding meta keywords tags to pages seems little worth the time. In my opinion, the meta keywords tag is dead, dead, dead. And like Andrew, good riddance, I say!
Since that time, Inktomi was rolled up into Yahoo, which continues to support the meta keywords tag as part of its Yahoo search engine. Or does it?
Search Engine Rep Confusion
Last month, I moderated a panel of search reps when that perennial favorite question came up during the session. Who supports the meta keywords tag?
Sigh. But if this question still coming up wasn’t depressing enough, then the search engine reps starting responding with a load of confusion. To paraphrase:
No, we don’t support it. Well, we read it. We read it, but it doesn’t matter. Actually, maybe we don’t read it.
Even Evan Roseman from Google said at one point that Google reads the meta keywords tag, suggesting no doubt to some that Google uses the tag.
To be clear, Google doesn’t. I’ll prove it further below, but it doesn’t, OK?
I gave Evan (hopefully) some good humored hassle afterward for saying this. He’s at least the second Google rep to declare this on panels I’ve moderated in as many years, and the problem is that the engineers (from any of the search engines) often take the question too literally.
Indexing Versus Retrieval Versus Ranking
To understand, let me talk about three different things a search engine does when it crawls and lists your page:
- Indexing: This is where the search engine effectively makes a copy of your page. The search engine is going to read and store the HTML content it finds — all of it. Evan was right when he said that the meta keyword tag is indexed by Google. Google knows that the tag exists and has recorded what’s in it. But that doesn’t mean it does anything else with it.
- Retrieval: This is where the search engine finds all the matching documents relevant for what you searched for. Most of those documents will actually have the words you searched for on them, in the sections that the search engine searches against (there are some exceptions, such as when anchor text is used to find pages. Google Now Reporting Anchor Text Phrases, Google Kills Bush’s Miserable Failure Search & Other Google Bombs and Google Declares Stephen Colbert As Greatest Living American explain more about this). While the search engine has recorded the entire page, it won’t search against everything indexed for retrieval. In other words, Google will look to see if words you searched for appear in the body area of a document, but it will NOT look in the meta keywords tag for matching words. The keywords tag, while indexed, is not used for retrieval at Google. At Yahoo, it is.
- Ranking: This is where the search engine looks at all those documents retrieved for a search and puts them in order of most importance, according to its algorithm. Retrieval (or what information research professionals call “recall”) is about finding everything). Ranking (or what the IR folks call “precision” — see Tim Bray’s excellent On Search: Precision and Recall document) is about getting the best stuff up to the top. Yahoo, while using the tag for retrieval, really doesn’t assign much weight to it for ranking.
Testing For Retrieval
Back to my panel experience. Since the reps were unclear, I declared to the audience that I’d just go out and test it again myself. It’s literally been about five years since I’ve last tested the tag, because I (and many others) feel it is so useless. There are better things to do with our time. But since that question needs a big old stake to the heart, I rolled up my sleeves and got cracking.
On the Search Engine Land home page, I inserted this meta keywords tag:
<meta name=”keywords” content=”qiskodslajdmnkd, ddakaieciuaj jkdalladpaoaw, wdaopeqndlkakljad” />
I had searched for all of these words on the four major search engines of Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and Ask and found no pages that matched. If these search engines made use of the meta keywords tag, I’d know in short order, if my page started coming up.
The tag went up on August 28. I then needed to wait until I could see each search engine had the most current version of my page (Squeezing The Search Loaf: Finding Search Engine Freshness & Crawl Dates explains more on how to do this).
It took two days, until August 30, for Google to show the latest version of my page in its index. I searched for each of the words, and my home page didn’t come up. The meta keyword tag was not used for retrieval and thus not supported.
Microsoft Live: No
It took five days, until September 2, for Microsoft to show a version of my page with the meta keywords tag on it. As an aside, Microsoft is kind of annoying. It will say something like this in the cached copy of the page:
This is a version of https://searchengineland.com/ as it looked when our crawler examined the site on 9/2/2007. The page you see below is the version in our index that was used to rank this page in the results to your recent query. This is not necessarily the most recent version of the page – to see the most recent version of this page, visit the page on the web.
If you glance quickly at the date, you might think the page has been revisited fairly recently. But as the text explains, it might be older. Indeed, when I looked on September 2 (as is the case today), the copy of the page in the index was as of August 30, as I could tell from the stories shown.
As with Google, I searched for each of the words, and my page didn’t come up. The meta keyword tag was NOT used for retrieval and thus not supported.
It took two days, until August 30, for Yahoo to have my latest page. Searches there did bring up the home page for all words. So the meta keywords tag IS used for retrieval.
Ask took the longest to show the most current version of my page, not reflecting the changes until today. Actually, when I look at the cached copy even now, it says that the page is from August 13 and uses a redirection URL rather than my https://searchengineland.com address.
Still, I can tell Ask has a version with the meta keywords tag on it since I’m getting back my home page when searching for words in that tag. As with Yahoo, the meta keywords tag IS used for retrieval.
Should You Use It? Sure, For Misspellings
So there you have it — half of the major crawlers (Yahoo & Ask.com) DO support the tag. Should you begin using it? My advice would be only for misspellings and really unusual words.
As explained, the tag can help with retrieval. A word in the tag is treated as if it were a word visible on the page itself. Now that’s handy for misspellings. For example, say you’re writing about Basset hounds. You suspect some people might misspell the name as Bassett hounds, adding an extra T. You could misspell the word yourself on the visible page, but that makes you look bad. You could insert the word and then try to hide it using CSS styles or putting it in the same color as the page background. But this type of “hidden” text is generally against search engine guidelines.
Enter the meta keywords tag. Just do this:
<meta name=”keywords” content=”bassett” />
Now you’ve got the misspelling on your page in a “legal” means that will be read by Yahoo and Ask. You’re still out of luck for Google and Live.com, but two out four ain’t bad.
But I Want To Rank!
What about ranking better with the tag. I mentioned already that many experienced SEOs don’t find it useful. Believe me, if just putting a single word into that tag was going to rank your page better, everyone would be doing it. Instead, search for anything on Yahoo or Ask. You’ll see plenty of pages ranking well for words without those words appearing in the meta keywords tag. And if you do see the words in the tag, it’s more due to coincidence — the words also appear in the body copy, in the title tag and often in links pointing at the page. The words in the meta keywords tag aren’t the primary reason the page is ranking well. Promise.
Back to our Basset Hound example. Sure, you can add the correct spelling to your meta keywords tag. Go ahead, if you want. Just understand that it is not likely to make you rank any better than if you didn’t include it at all. Moreover, beginners are especially likely to spend far too long worrying about getting the “right” words in the meta keywords tag rather than just writing good body copy.
One of the most common questions I used to get way back in the old days was over using commas in the meta keywords tag. Consider these options:
- <meta name=”keywords” content=”bassett, hound, hounds, basset” />
- <meta name=”keywords” content=”bassett,hound,hounds,basset” />
- <meta name=”keywords” content=”bassett hound, bassett hounds, basset hound, basset hound” />
- <meta name=”keywords” content=”bassett hound,bassett hounds,basset hound,basset hound” />
- <meta name=”keywords” content=”bassett hound bassett hounds basset hound basset hound” />
- <meta name=”keywords” content=”bassett hound basset hounds” />
Sigh. See why I hate this tag so much, when I’ve had to deal with people wondering about commas and spaces and variations like this. Let’s take it from the top, as to the motivations behind these versions:
- This is someone who thinks that each word should be on its own, separated by a comma and with a space in front of the next word.
- This is someone who thinks that getting rid of the spaces means they can squeeze in more words.
- This is someone who thinks that if there are particular phrases they want to be found for, those phrases should be together and set off by commas.
- As with three, but losing the spaces to squeeze in more words.
- Similar to three but thinking you don’t need commas at all.
- This is Mr. or Ms. Paranoid. They’re concerned about saying any word too often. So they lose the commas, restrict repetition and hope that proximity will help (IE, put “basset” behind “hound” rather than in front and maybe you’ll still show up for “basset hound.”
Which way should you go? I’d suggest number three, for these reasons:
- Yahoo has long recommended using commas and in particular supported them as a way to separate out distinct terms for those in their paid inclusion programs. I’ll update this page with the latest advice, but commas still seem to make sense.
- Spaces just make things look nicer, and you shouldn’t be shoving a ton of terms in the tag anyway. How long is too long? No idea! In the past, the search engines just wouldn’t index content beyond around 250 to 1,000 characters. Maybe I’ll test this in the future.
- You do want phrases kept together. “bassett, hound” is probably going to be seen as “bassett hound” anyway, but why risk it?
I mentioned that misspellings were a key use for the tag. You could also use it for synonyms. For example, if you have a page all about shoes and you never say “footwear,” you could put that word in your tag. However, it’s far better if you just find a way to make use of the word in the body copy itself. That text is retrieved by all the major search engines, not just some.
Aside from synonyms, perhaps you have a page that’s all Flash or all images. Use the meta keywords tag to describe the page. Just remember that you’re still not likely to rank better than other pages that have textual information. Search engines are textual creatures. Give them what they want.
Some Official Guidelines
The W3C has guidelines (and here) in HTML 4.0 about meta data and search engines, while the XHTML specs don’t get into it at all. Ignore the specs. YES, IGNORE THE SPECS. Some of them are wrong; some are outdated. The only thing I can see that they explain is the difference between these:
- <meta name=”keywords” content=”bassett”>
- <meta name=”keywords” content=”bassett” />
See how the second tag ends /> rather than > in the first? As best I can tell, this is because a meta tag is an “empty element” in XHTML, where there’s not a “start” and a “finish” (as with a paragraph element: <p> is the beginning, with </p> the end). Empty elements in XHTML need that /> format.
I haven’t tested things without the />, but there are so many (so very, very many) pages out there not following that syntax that it is virtually certain Yahoo and Ask will read the tag either way. Doing it fresh? Do it /> style. But don’t go back and start changing things.
Aside from that, if you want to know how a search engine deals with meta data officially, you go to the search engine itself. Ask’s webmaster guidelines don’t mention the meta keywords tag, so that leaves Yahoo:
- Yahoo Quality Guidelines: “Metadata (including title and description) that accurately describes the contents of a web page.” This is telling you don’t lie with your keywords. Don’t insert words that aren’t somehow related to the topic of your page.
- How do I improve the ranking of my web site in the search results?: “Use a ‘keyword’ meta-tag to list key words for the document. Use a distinct list of keywords that relate to the specific page on your site instead of using one broad set of keywords for every page.” Note that it doesn’t say you’ll automatically rank better by doing this. Also, unique words for each page would be my advice, as well — but do NOT worry if you decide to use the same set of key terms on each of your pages. It isn’t that big of a deal.
Looking for the exact format that you should use for the meta keywords tag from Yahoo? You know, commas, spaces and all that. Sorry — they don’t provide it, which is another sign you’re probably worrying too much about it.
Freaked? Skip It
Overall, here’s the best advice I can offer anyone dealing with this tag. If you begin to feel confused, concern, tired or uncertain when pondering it, SKIP THE TAG ENTIRELY. It’s not going to hurt you to not have it, and it’s not worth the time fretting about it.
Knowing how to write effective meta titles and descriptions is crucial when thinking about how to apply Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) to a new website. In this post, we’ll explain our process for metadata creation and exactly why we put so much time into the process.
There are an inconceivable number of guides on the subject of metadata creation and, to the small business owner, first time web designer and entry-level digital marketer, it can be quite overwhelming. You might wonder why one digital marketing agency advises one process whilst another digital evangelist suggests another proven process.
Which one is right?
Which one is wrong?
The answer to both of those questions is all of them.
There’s no precise set of guidelines to which people can follow and get the same results across the board — but you can steal a little bit from all of them and create a process that’s both effective and works.
The process we use at our digital marketing agency is exactly that. It’s effective and we’ve tested it time and again to make sure that it works and falls in line with how people search the web and how they use Google. But before we head down the rabbit hole of how to create metadata, it’s important to understand both what it does and why taking a casual approach to the process is a long-term recipe for bad results and an eventual domain disaster.
Understanding How Google’s Search Results Pages Work
Both Google’s Search Engine Results Pages (SERPs) and how the average searcher uses those results are fundamental pieces of knowledge that you’ll need to know about before attempting to write new metadata — especially if you’re hoping that the user clicks your link.
Each search phrase will deliver results according to the amount of knowledge Google’s algorithm has uncovered and how well they feel they can address the user’s search.
Now there are so many different ways for the results to be displayed, most of which will “steal” clicks away from the classic SERP display of ten blue links.
For example, when searching “best way to learn trombone” the search results returned are displayed in the ‘Classic View’ of ten blue links with individual descriptions. With only a small selection of clickable options on the page, the chance for the first result to earn a click is high.
Unfortunately Google’s recently updated results pages have much more going on, dramatically narrowing the chance to earn clicks within the standard ten blue link range.
For example, on some searches a carousel of linked images will appear at the top of the page to both draw the eye and the click. Go and search for “game of thrones cast” and you’ll more than likely find similar results to the below image:
Some searches return “Knowledge Graphs”. These are widget-like boxes that appear on the right-hand side of the page, typically listing details for a business that may match the original search term. For example, when I search for “emergency plumber” the results are localised and a local plumber is featured in the graph:
Lastly, there is also the Answer Box, a small snippet of information from a linked page which should answer the original search query. These answer boxes can have two consequences:
- The user clicks the link within the answer.
- The user reads the answer and doesn’t click any links at all
If your website is below an Answer Box, it’s much harder to earn that single click compared to if the ‘Classic View’ was in use.
With all of the above in mind, it’s more important than ever to write meta titles and descriptions for search engines that are not just optimised for the benefit of SEO, but also to increase the click-through-rate (CTR).
Why Click-through Rate Optimisation Is Important For Meta Creation
As Google doesn’t release a full checklist of the — alleged — 200+ ranking factors it considers within its algorithm, there are those who believe Google when they say that meta descriptions aren’t a ranking signal. There are others in the industry, however, who suspect the opposite to be true. These people stand firm in the belief that cramming keyword phrases into both the meta title and meta description is a minimum requirement.
At Exposure Ninja we side with the “Google wouldn’t lie to us, right?” camp and create our metadata with that in mind. However, we do believe that the CTR percentage on links within the SERPs contributes heavily towards how Google chooses a final ranking position and will regularly boost the ranking of a page with new metadata to test if the altered meta title or description improves the CTR — and also how the searcher reacts to the page they navigate to.
Our understanding of CTR use in Google’s algorithm is:
High CTR + High Time on Page + High Page Views per Session = Increased Rankings.
High CTR + Low Time on Page + Return to SERPs = Decreased Rankings.
Should the landing page be poor quality, resulting in the user returning to the SERPs, Google will use the CTR and on-page metrics to decrease the ranking. This means that we’ll also need fantastic quality landing pages for when users click on our newly optimised metadata to avoid a decrease in ranking.
So how do we write meta titles and descriptions?
How To Prepare To Write New Meta
Before making any changes to the metadata of a website, it’s crucial to download the metadata on said website for both future reference, to help with the rewrite, and fall back, should the new meta uploaded result in any loss of organic traffic (traffic sourced from Google) or a decrease in CTR.
There are a number of tools and methods available to download the current meta of a website, but one we regularly return to is the meta tag extractor built by Buzzstream. After submitting our list of URLs to the tool we can download the supplied CSV file and copy/paste the data into our pre-prepared meta creation spreadsheet:
Download our meta title and description spreadsheet from Google Drive.
Once we’ve filled in the spreadsheet with our downloaded metadata and associated URL we’ll then assign the corresponding keyword phrases for that page to guarantee they’re used within the new meta title and description. This ensures that when the link appears in the search results the keywords in question appear in bold.
Next, before we move onto the writing process, we’re going to look to our competitors. We do this to find Unique Selling Points (USPs) that have already been shown to work time and time again.
Using Unique Selling Points In Meta Titles And Descriptions
Every day, tens of thousands of businesses across the world are running A/B tests on Google’s SERPs — spending tens of thousands of Dollars and Pounds in the process. Where? Here:
Google’s Adwords program is built upon testing what works and what doesn’t. In well-established industries, it’s highly likely that companies have been testing which USPs work best to earn a click for several years. By reviewing the ads at the top and bottom of a Google results page, you can pick up important points that may have been missed during the keyword research process.
In the below example there are a number of keywords that we may find useful for our own plumbing clients, some of which we may not have considered during our own keyword research process. These include:
- Fast Response
- No Call Out Fee
- Drainage Problems
If companies are willing to spend money on those words and phrases, it’s safe to assume that they’re the right type of keywords for triggering a response from the searcher. This also suggests that they’re profit generating keywords too. Using them within your new metadata is vital.
Psychological Triggers In Metadata Creation
Using the right type of psychological phrasing within your meta titles and accompanying description is also part of the key to success. You only need to look at examples of the wording within advertising to understand that the right words in the right place can generate a sale.
There are a number of different ways in which you can communicate your message and there have been several great studies and blog posts on the impact they have on CTRs. Coschedule’sHow To Write A Call To Action In A Template With 6 Examples explains how useful the process can be on a wider scale than just metadata titles. One of the most useful posts of all is the 380 High Emotion Words Guaranteed to Make You More Persuasive by the delightful Bushra of The Persuasion Revolution.
Some personal favourites we regularly call upon are:
One word that we do try to avoid where possible is “our“. As found within the teachings of Dale Carnegie’s ‘How To Win Friends and Influence People‘, it’s not uncommon for people to switch off when they read “our” within an article as this tends to not address the reader’s desire.
For example, a user is less likely to be interested in learning that “our range of stock is exhaustive“. Instead, they may be more convinced to click the link if it solves their immediate problem, i.e, “solve your problems with…“.
How To Write The Metadata
The writing process for metadata creation is quite straightforward and made easier if the research discussed above has been done beforehand. If you have prior experience of regular blog post writing or copywriting then the process will be easier — these skills aren’t a necessity, you just need to tick all the right boxes.
In particular, one box that must be ticked is that of keyword placement. We’re not looking to stuff in keywords until the metadata is like an overflowing suitcase, instead, we need precise and calculated distribution.
The most important place to put the keywords is at the beginning or first half of the title, likewise with the description. Keywords used later on in the description are less likely to be read as people scan the SERPs.
For a long time, eye-tracking studies of Google’s search results suggested that keyword placement within the Golden Triangle was the optimal choice. However, as the results page design changed and mobile users became more prevalent, the triangle became less relevant. A number of Google SERPs heatmap studies demonstrate that a user’s eye movement differs depending on the design of the search results displayed.
Taking all the changes and standard conventions into account, we still feel that placement of the keywords towards the beginning of both the meta title and description —- whilst still using the positive phrase leading words above — increases the likelihood of earning a click.
For example, whilst creating the title for our post 5 Types of Hashtag Explained (and How To Use Them), we used both the likely search query (“types of hashtag“) at the beginning, before closing with a statement of use for the searcher (“how to use them“).
Should You Include The Brand Name In The Title?
Website plugins such as the Yoast SEO Plugin for WordPress include the option to ensure that your brand name or site name is included as a suffix to your meta titles. This can be very useful if the desire to always have the brand name visible is a crucial point for the website — however, in our experience, it’s far more prudent to include the brand or website name during the meta title writing process. This allows us to ensure that the title displays the best information possible to the search user.
Although this can sometimes limit the number of characters — especially when the brand or website name is long — it’s preferable to the alternative which is seeing the title truncated within the SERPs to accommodate the brand name, as seen in the below example from the Moz blog.
The exception to adding the brand or site name as a suffix occurs when either the brand name receives enough search requests per month that it would be wiser to have it at the beginning of the title, or when the brand itself is widely known. For example, the Amazon brand name is understandably best written at the beginning of their home page title, whereas a new company might find trouble earning clicks if their brand name started the title. On that occasion it would be wiser to lead with the most useful keyword phrase and the brand name as a suffix then, once brand awareness has increased sufficiently, to use the brand name as a prefix instead.
The Best Meta Title Length For Google’s Search Results
Keeping within the limitations of the character count on Google’s search results pages is akin to staying between the lines of a paint-by-numbers. Sure, you can go over the lines a little, but the picture won’t look as intended. Going over the suggested meta title length of sixty characters could result in the title being truncated, potentially hiding keyword phrases that match the search query, keywords that may have also earned a click.
Although the limit for the title is actually set around a 600 pixel limit —- rather than by characters — we instead prefer to stick to a smaller character limit so that we have full control over how the title is displayed.
As you can see in our meta title and description spreadsheet, we prefer not to write past the sixty character mark — regardless of the recent meta length update. By doing so, we prevent any truncation of the title, thereby safeguarding us against any return to the previous pixel limit in the future.
The Best Meta Description Length For Google’s Search Results
As with the title, the description can also fall foul of Google’s truncation knife which could hide the convincing sales pitch you’ve included within your meta tags. To avoid this, we tend to limit ourselves to a maximum of one-hundred and fifty-five words, thereby narrowing the chance that our message could become lost.
One other way in which the description could be truncated is if certain rich snippets are active for the page in question. For example, rich snippets linking to sections within the page may remove any number of characters from the end of the meta description, reinforcing the point that loading the first half of the description is crucial, not just for the increased conversion rate percentage, but also to avoid those keywords being removed entirely.
Testing Your New Metadata Before Implementation
Once written, it’s important to verify your newly created meta titles and descriptions before you upload them to your website. If you don’t, you run the risk of looking for the updated metadata with Google’s SERPs only to find that they’ve been significantly truncated. To do this, we use two tools.
The first tool we’ll use to check how the metadata will appear in the search results is the Google SERP Snippet Optimization Tool by SEOmofo. This ingenious tool is slightly dated in appearance but provides a close enough representation of actual search results.
The final check we’ll do is to see whether our new meta title fits within the new pixel dimensions of the search results. Although we rarely use more than sixty characters, there will be times where sixty-one or more characters are necessary. Testing the metadata before it’s live on the site narrows the likelihood that a rewrite will be required. For this we use Search Wilderness’sPixel Width Checker for Page Meta Titles.
Monitoring Google’s Search Console And Adjusting As You Go
Once you’ve written your new metadata and added them to your website, it’s important to follow up on the process by regularly checking how they perform — much like you would with ‘call to action’ optimisation for buttons and links within your own website.
Using Google’s own Search Console analytics you can track the CTR for individual search queries and see if the number of clicks has either improved or declined. Fortunately, should the new metadata have a negative effect on particular landing pages, you’ll have the original meta title and description saved within your spreadsheet to re-upload to the site and return the CTR to the pre-rewrite norm.
Regular Reviews And Rewrites
Writing new meta titles and descriptions isn’t a one-time operation. As with landing page optimisation, it’s crucial that the resulting search CTR is regularly reviewed and re-optimised to ensure that everything has been done to increase the chances of earning a click over the competition — especially in cases where matching the authority of a domain is hard. Having the best title within the SERPs could earn more clicks than a lower ranking page might otherwise generate.
For our clients, we’ll regularly return to the revised metadata and double check to see if further optimisation can be done. We never settle for okay meta and always ensure that we’ve followed every step above, no matter how long the process takes.
How Do YOU Write Meta Titles And Descriptions?
We hope that the above ‘how to’ advice helps you during your next metadata creation task and welcome any and all suggestions on how you write effective and CTR-driven meta titles and descriptions.
Tell us all about your metadata writing process in the comments below.